EA has been mining the Medal of Honor series since 1999, and apparently the games keep selling, because EA just keeps making them. The PSP saw its first WW2 shooter last year with Medal of Honor Heroes, a game praised for successfully translating the formula to a portable system. A sequel was inevitable, so EA set their Canadian branch to work. The actual group that worked on it was Fusion Team, the people who made the PSP original. The aptly named Medal of Honor Heroes 2 continues the spinoff on Sony’s portable, but Fusion Team also built a Wii version, from the ground up to use the Wii remote. The Wii already saw the European Theater with MOH: Vanguard, a decent effort, if having its own set of flaws. So, is WW2 still interesting on the Wii, or is it time for the MOH series to retire its stripes?
Amazingly, MOH Heroes 2 proves that the franchise still has some juice, even if it is a relatively small amount. The previously portable-exclusive Fusion Team went hog-wild on the Wii, a console with more room for them to flex their creative muscle. The results are surprising to say the least, and top the modestly impressive MOH Vanguard in every respect.
So far, Metroid Prime 3 has the smoothest, most accurate FPS controls on the Wii. That makes Fusion Team’s accomplishment with Heroes 2 all the more impressive. With their first Wii game, they came closer to Prime 3’s control precision than any other developer on the console. With the sensitivity at its tightest, Heroes 2 is almost as responsive as Retro’s game, and even a little faster in terms of turning speed. In fact, Heroes 2 probably needed to be a bit quicker as a pure FPS as opposed to Metroid’s more leisurely First Person Adventure. The rest of the controls are complicated enough to allow a multitude of features, including leaning out from cover, melee attacks, tossing grenades and aiming over a gun’s iron sights. At the same time, these features are streamlined enough that the controls never feel cluttered. In short, I didn’t have to think about the controls while I was playing, which is the hallmark of a good game; we’ve certainly come a long way since Red Steel.
Fusion Team didn’t just polish their controls to a shine, though—they innovated. They actually took the time to think up creative ways to use the Wii remote and Nunchuk. For example, imagine there’s a German tank bearing down on you. You pull out your bazooka to fire off a rocket, but to actually aim the huge weapon, you lift the Wii remote backwards over your shoulder, as if you were hefting and steadying it with your body. Your character, Lt. Berg, flips open the scope and the aiming control switches over to the Nunchuk’s stick. You tap the B trigger to fire, and you hear the rocket’s exhaust sound jetting from the remote’s speaker. This whole process might sound awkward, but in practice it’s comfortable and unbelievably cool.
And these little details don’t end with the bazooka. You pump the shotgun after each shot by drawing the Nunchuk under the remote in quick jerks, like working the slide on a real shotgun. Certain objectives require you to find radios and contact HQ. Radios are tuned by twisting the remote left and right, like a twisting a dial. At the same time, staticky signals crackle from the remote’s speaker; Heroes 2 is probably the first game to actually take advantage of the poor quality of the remote’s crappy speaker. A similar twisting motion is used to zoom in and out with the sniper rifle, as if you’re adjusting the scope’s magnification. Heroes 2 has many more of these clever little uses of the Wii’s technology, most of them subtle, but all of them intuitive and fun. Fusion Team’s creativity manages to make a bland genre interesting again.
The solo campaign is accompanied by an on-rails arcade mode, which follows the same general path through the levels but forces the player to use one weapon at a time. You have infinite ammo and plenty of Nazis to perforate, but at the same time it’s no House of the Dead. Arcade mode is an entertaining distraction, and it might be easier for your parents to pick up, but it has a “tacked on” feeling. I’m glad they included it, but the main draw will be the solo mode and the multiplayer.
Speaking of which, Heroes 2 is the first Wii FPS to include a 32 player online mode. Not only that, but it’s handled by the EA Nation service. For the first time, I could browse servers without any of those wretched, horrible little friend codes. EA leaves Nintendo’s clunky matchmaking system behind, creating a multiplayer that feels liberating, but really shouldn’t. I played a few online matches, and while it’s an amazing experience for a Nintendo console, it just feels average compared to online gaming on the PC or 360. The mechanics from the single player are pretty much untouched, so you get most of the cool weapon features and the smooth aiming. On the other hand, there’s no voice over IP. You can access a small list of pre-made messages to send to your teammates, but until Nintendo joins us in the 1990s of online gaming, players won’t be able to communicate in real time. The multiplayer in Heroes 2 is a big first for the Wii, but it won’t feel especially new if you’re a regular denizen of Steam.
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